Retiring SES veteran applauds changes

After more than three decades volunteering with emergency response organisations, David Leigh has seen the chaos severe weather can wreak upon communities.

SES Kiama unit controller David Leigh will hang up his boots on April 11. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

SES Kiama unit controller David Leigh will hang up his boots on April 11. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Set to retire in April, the Kiama State Emergency Service unit controller began his "second job" with the Volunteer Rescue Association in 1979.

It was during his time with the association that he witnessed a tragedy which has remained sharp in his mind to this day.

"One thing that did shape my thoughts was in Lithgow, we lost a member of our rescue team to drowning," he said.

"We were trying to rescue a fella trapped in a flooded causeway and after a number of attempts he was saved but the member of our unit was drowned.

"Why I mention that, the circumstances of that drowning wouldn't happen these days because of the training, the methods and the technology we have for the situations."

Moving with his family to Kiama for work more than two decades ago, Mr Leigh joined the SES and assumed the rank of deputy controller, and then controller.

He listed events such as the 2013 Kiama tornadoes and 2005 Jamberoo Mountain Road bus crash, which left two tourists dead, as being among the strongest memories of his time in Kiama.

Mr Leigh said technology had changed a lot since he joined the service.

"The SES has embraced technology in a big way and generally for the benefit ... it's been good to see our call-out systems centralised," he said.

Having just returned from a holiday to Antarctica, Mr Leigh said he was likely to stay a little closer to home after leaving the service.

"One of the reasons I'm leaving is because my wife also retired, giving us the opportunity to travel," he said.

"We're going to Kakadu next month and ... we're into caravanning so we'll have more of an opportunity to see this country and perhaps more of the world."


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